Thursday, April 13, 2017

United Airlines Incident(s) and David Dao - My Thoughts

For those that somehow don't know yet, on April 9th, United Airlines had an overbooked flight and they needed about 4 seats to be emptied for 4 staff members needed at another location for an unstaffed flight (who, to be frank, could have and should have just taken another flight) thereby inconveniencing passengers with no consideration for the cost of their flights and whether or not they had someplace important to get to. Passengers were offered $400 dollars (in vouchers), a hotel stay, and a seat on a plane that was leaving almost an entire day later. That was only if they volunteered, but nobody did, so they raised the vouchers to $800 dollars. Regardless, nobody volunteered.

Subsequently, a manager boarded the flight explaining that four people would be chosen at random (a spokeswoman has stated since then that the "random" selection gave priority to frequent fliers or fliers who paid more for their flight, I guess?
One of the people selected was David Dao, a doctor from Kentucky who had refused to leave on the grounds that he had waited quite a long time to get on this flight and he had to be at work the very next day to see patients. He wasn't aggressive, he wasn't rude, he was just refusing to get off the plane.

So, they called in the police. He refused to leave his seat, again, so a skirmish broke out. He screamed as he was thrown against the arm rest and dragged out of the seat, sustaining injuries to both his head and his mouth.

Shortly afterwards, staff actually lost track of him in the terminal so he managed to get back on the plane, seeming very shaken up, bleeding, scared, saying "I have to go home" several times before finally collapsing into a seat and needing to be taken off the plane on a stretcher. The plane actually had to be emptied so they could clean blood up.

It was later revealed by Dao's daughter, Crystal Pepper, that the injuries he sustained were actually worse than originally thought,
"“What happened to my dad should never have happened to any human being, regardless of the circumstances,” she said. “We were horrified and shocked and sickened to see what had happened to him.”
She added that her father is “healing right now,” while Demetrio revealed that he had sustained several injuries, including a “significant concussion,” a “serious broken nose” and an “injury to sinuses.” He also confirmed that Dao lost two front teeth and will undergo reconstructive surgery. He was discharged from the hospital late Wednesday.
“I would defy anyone to suggest that there was not unreasonable force and violence used to help Dr. Dao disembark that plane,” said Demetrio, who adds that Dao is in a secure, secret location as he heals both emotionally and physically.
I feel like this situation could have been, and obviously should have been, handled differently. Like, for instance, if the flight was overbooked, you should have found a different flight for your staff members to take. I don't care if they would have been late, they wound up late regardless because they just had to be on that plane.
If you need to take staff on the flight with you to get them to a different location, I feel that that should be sorted out before the flight is boarded.
Or, if he was refusing to go, I don't care if he was chosen at random, find a different person. His refusal is not a call-to-action for aggressive, and damaging behavior. 

The CEO, who, I believe called for the action of the Police, went on to "justify" the actions of his employees, having the nerve to call Dao "disruptive" and "belligerent".
Like, what? He just refused to leave, he wasn't yelling or starting a fight. He just wanted to go home. The absolute loudest he was at any point during the entire situation was when he was screaming as they were man-handling him.
There are even people who have tried to justify what happened using Dao's possible criminal history against him as though that is actually relevant to what happened on that plane.

This is not the first incident someone has had on United Airlines. (I'm sure it won't be the last) One passenger, Geoff Fearns, who bought a full-priced first class plane ticket, was made to leave the flight for a passenger of higher priority. He was threatened with being arrested and put in handcuffs.
"Then, as Fearns tells it, a United employee rushed onto the aircraft and informed him that he had to get off the plane.
“I asked why,” he told me. “They said the flight was overfull.”
Fearns, like the doctor at the center of that viral video from Sunday night, held his ground. He was already on the plane, already seated. He shouldn’t have to disembark.
“That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute,” Fearns said. “They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me. They said they'd put me in cuffs if they had to.
I think that, over-all, United Airlines needs to take a moment to think about how they handle their passengers, their staff, and their priorities/policies. No passenger should somehow be prioritized over another. Everyone on the plane is just trying to get somewhere. You cannot just pick and choose who you think should or should not stay. I understand doing so if they're someone who is harassing other passengers/staff members, actually being disruptive and belligerent, or is a potential threat to the safety and well-being of the other passengers, but outside of that, if they paid for the flight, already boarded and seated, they should not be made to move (especially in the way that David Dao was) for your not-even-working-on-that-flight staff members or someone you've apparently given more priority to (which doesn't make any sense anyway because first and foremost, the safety and well-being of ALL of your passengers should be your priority. One passengers priority over another should not be determined by whether they work for you, or if they're rich or famous.)

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